People get in Arts and Crafts for a variety of different reasons. For many it can be a great form of therapy and rehabilitation. This weeks Creative Corner interviewee’s story rang so true to me. As a fellow sufferer of ME when I was in my teens. I can see how turning to jewellery making helped Kirsty feel sane. Her work is beautiful and it’s an inspiring read. Plus this week there’s a chance to win some little black cat jewellery!
1. Introduce yourself.
Hi! I’m Kirsty, I live on the border of Essex and London, with my two black rescue kitties, Rosie and Bertie. I’ve enjoyed art and crafts since a young age, but started making jewellery shortly after I was diagnosed with M.E/C.F.S, as a therapeutic hobby to keep me sane while I was bed and house bound for a few years.
2. Tell us a bit about The Little Black Cat.
I create Hand Stamped and Gemstone Jewellery and Gifts, all to my own designs. The majority of my gemstone items are one of a kind, as I just love making something different! I tend to work with lots of colour with my gemstone items, I really enjoy that aspect! I added hand stamping to my business, as metal work was something I really enjoyed, and I’m now learning Silver Smithing techniques and soldering to take my skill set further. Silver Smithing is something I always dreamt of being able to do, so I’m really excited to keep learning.
3. What made you start The Little Black Cat?
My business started as a way to help with my health issues. I was really struggling with the M.E, and my diagnosis list grew to take in more illnesses on top of it. ThenI learnt I also had Fibromyalgia, IBS, Raynaulds Disease, Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia, Recurrent Headaches and more, along with worsening of the illnesses I already had- Asthma, Eczema, Hayfever and Anaphylaxis.
I was extremely depressed being stuck indoors whilst seeing my friends living their lives without me. It was hard to cope. My consultant at the time (the amazing Prof. Findley), referred me to his M.E lifestyle management group, where I met others with the same problems, and realised that if I wanted to have any kind of life, I’d have to fight for it. During this group, we were told that having a creative outlet was a great way to help with all those horrible feelings and symptoms- a way to try and take our minds off things. So I thought for about 2 mins, and knew what I wanted to try!
I’d been collecting shells and pebbles, gemstone tumble stones and slices, since I was a toddler- I still can’t come home from a beach with empty pockets! So, gemstones were where my heart went to!
After buying a starter kit from Tesco (of all places!) I was hooked! I was able to create jewellery on days I was bedbound, or at the table when I wasn’t. And slowly, as I started to get better, I started to run a stall at local craft events with my parents help, so I could socialise too! I met so many amazing people and made lots of friends for life!The little black cat creative corner interview Click To Tweet
4. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
I have no formal training, and would much prefer to teach myself, as I find it a better way to learn for me. However, I did do a 2 hour soldering lesson last year, as I was scared I’d set my workshop on fire without it- but otherwise, it’s all learning from trial and error! Love learning new processes and new skills!
5. Explain your creative process.
So I come up with my best ideas when I’m trying to sleep, or at my other job! I find keeping a notepad to hand at all times is the best thing for me, so I can jot down phases or ideas as I go. I also do some sketches sometimes if I’m trying to work out how to space things and get a good layout. Once I have my idea sorted, I’ll go and try it. I’m very much a ‘try it and see what happens’ style of creative, so that’s exactly what I do. If it doesn’t work, I’ll try a different approach and go from there until it works out. It can sometimes take a few days to get that idea perfect, but I really enjoy the process!
6. Describe your typical day.
I usually start my days feeding my cats- literally nothing can be done until Bertie has been fed as he makes such a noise! Once the cats are fed, I’ll go through any messages on my online platforms, catch up on social media and admin work for a while, and then get set up for making.
I have two work spaces at the moment, one for stamping, and one for beading and soldering. It’s not the best way to work, but I’m making the best of it until my new garden studio arrives later this month (so excited!!!) I’ll get my orders made up and finish at around 5.30. Then I’ll get my meditation done (I do this three times a day to help me recharge with the M.E) and get all my work polished up. The evenings are usually spent making boxes for parcels and getting packaging ready so that everything can be posted the next day. At some point, I’ll fit dinner in, and feeding the kitties again when Bertie’s internal food alarm goes off. I’ll squeeze in another online catch up and maybe some tv, before reading my book or kindle and bed!
7. What’s your biggest seller?
My biggest sellers are my personalised hand stamped ‘This mummy belongs to…’ ‘This Daddy belongs to…’ and ‘Daddy Bear’ ‘Mummy Bear’ Keyrings, which come with as many children’s names as you need. They make great gifts, and are super popular around Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
8. What have been the high and low points of running The Little Black Cat?
My low points would be the times when I feel I’m not good enough. When sales stop coming in for a while and you wonder what you did wrong- it may just be that it’s the end of the month, and people are waiting for payday, but when you work for yourself, you do start to blame yourself, even when you know it’s daft!
My high points are getting to work at home with the kitties! Never a dull moment! And also learning new things! I’d also say when your items go to a new country- it’s so exciting knowing your items have gone as far as Australia, Hong Kong, USA and Canada!
9. What would be your top tips for running your The Little Black Cat?
Make sure you take regular breaks! At times, it’s so easy to just keep going and wear yourself out, to forget to eat, or think ‘just one more item’ but you’re human, not a machine! I’d also say that you can only manage to run a creative business if you love it- you have to love what you’re doing, or it won’t work!
10. What are your aspirations for The Little Black Cat?
My aspirations are to get further with my silver work and to keep learning! To hopefully get some of my items into shops. To have a single studio where I can keep everything together (it’s coming!) I’d love to teach jewellery making classes too! And most importantly, to keep trying to improve my health, so that I can take my jewellery dream further.
11. Where can we find you?
If you Love Kirsty’s Jewellery as much as I do, then you cannot afford to miss out on this great giveaway. Kirsty is offering one lucky reader the chance to win a hand Stamped ‘follow your dreams’ Silver bangle.
You can enter multiple times using the entry options shown. The winner will be picked at random by Rafflecopter and Kirsty Halsey will contact you to send the prize. Full terms and conditions can be found in the widget.
One Follow your dreams Silver bangle – no monetary exchange available
Contest is open until Midnight Tuesday 5th June
Distribution of prizes is the responsibility of Kirsty Halsey
Craft with Cartwright cannot be held responsible for lost prizes
All winner decisions are final – the winner has 48 hours to claim or a new winner will be drawn
UK Entrants Only
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